Danny Kingad has persevered through a barrage of personal catastrophes. He was raised in poverty, lost his father before his eighth birthday, and was surrounded by a slew of bad influences during his teenage years.
Thanks to a loving community and his pursuit of the martial arts, the Filipino overcame life’s toughest obstacles. Now studying at the University of the Cordilleras and competing in ONE Championship, the undefeated 21-year-old flyweight prospect is determined to build upon his success story.
On Friday Night, 21 April, Kingad will square off against former MIMMA featherweight champion “Jungle Cat” Muhammad Aiman in a flyweight clash at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, which takes place at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
For Kingad, he views this as his biggest test to date.
“I think this fight will be exciting and challenging because it is different. [Aiman] is a MIMMA featherweight champion and that is why I see it as challenging for me,” the talented Baguio City native explains.
“There is pressure on him, but because he was a featherweight before and now he is coming down to flyweight, there is also pressure on me, because he is bigger than me. I will try my best to knock him out.”
At the encouragement of his cousin, Kingad started his martial arts journey at the age of 16 when he decided to train in wushu. The two practiced their skills together and cross-trained for fitness.
Eventually, he was accepted to the University of the Cordilleras on a scholarship, joined the wushu team, and under the tutelage of Mark Sangiao, won a Regional Wushu Championship in 2015.
In addition to pursuing wushu and his education, Kingad was further motivated by another cousin, who began competing in North America’s bustling mixed martial arts scene. That inspired the young Filipino to transition into the sport in late 2014.
After winning his first two bouts on the Philippines’ MMA scene, the Team Lakay standout signed with ONE. The Baguio City resident made his promotional debut in April 2016 at ONE: GLOBAL RIVALS, where he got the first TKO of his career against Muhamad Haidar. He followed that up with an impressive submission victory over fellow countryman Eugene Toquero at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION last December.
Even though he is only 21, Kingad comes across as more mature than most fighters in his age group, and he credits that to Team Lakay, the fight camp he now calls his family.
“They are helping me and they are my mentors. They mentor me on how to think and how to talk. Many things they teach me help me through life,” he explains. “I have been able to speak to them about all of my problems. They support me because they know that my life was not easy.”
On 21 April, Kingad will also have the support of his hometown crowd in the Philippines, as he steps into the ONE cage for the third time in his young career and looks to keep his unbeaten record intact.
This time, he will be fighting Aiman, a well-rounded Malaysian warrior known for his energetic pace and fearlessness to experiment with wild techniques. The “Jungle Cat,” who trains out of Bali MMA and Monarchy MMA, holds a 2-1 record. Most recently, the Malaysian native TKOed third-degree BJJ black belt Eduardo Novaes at ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS a little over two months ago.
Kingad is familiar with Aiman’s energetic style, and is prepared for every scenario.
“I have watched his fights, so I know what I am going to do in this fight,” he says. “I have a game plan now.”
If all goes according to plan, the Filipino will push his record to 5-0 in impressive fashion and advance towards a potential match-up against one of the flyweight division’s elite. Although he will likely be inching himself closer to title contention with those numbers, Kingad prefers not to look that far ahead. Instead, he wants to challenge himself a little more within the weight class.
“I am not rushing to go to the top. I want to first fight more in my division,” he says. “And then, we can go for the championship.”